Updated (11:06 PM): Bruce Broughton and his wife responded to the controversy on their Facebook pages tonight.
“What’s on my mind? The mess of this afternoon’s news and the positive responses of so many friends. If you want to really vent your feelings in a positive way, one that transcends your lovely notes to me, you can let the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences know.
“How do I feel? I feel as though I’m the butt of a campaign to discredit a song, the nomination of which caught people by surprise. As many of you have noted, the campaigning on the other songs is epic compared to my simple email note. The marketing abilities of the other companies before and after the nomination far outstrip anything that this song was able to benefit from.
“We learned this morning that the song will appear on Billboard’s charts shortly. Somebody’s listening to it. Somebody likes it.
“But most of all, I feel sullied, and I feel disappointed not only for me, but for Dennis Spiegel, who wrote a lovely (and although hardly anyone has noticed), truly ecumenical lyric which helped drive the story in the film, and for the unassailable Joni Eareckson, whose vocal on the song breathed real life into it.
“So, if you’re really upset by this miserable turn of events, I appreciate your notes enormously (I also read Belinda’s page), but let the Academy know.”
– Bruce Broughton, evening of Jan. 29.
“I cannot believe that the Academy just did that to Bruce. Bruce has given hours and hours of his time to the Academy over a period of 30 years, has tirelessly fought for composers, is the only top composer I know who will generously lend out his scores to composers, spends hours having lunches giving advice to up and coming film composers. These poor huge production companies who had their noses put out of joint by a little song. All I can say is, they must have been terrified by the song and it’s one damn good song too. Well, they are happy now, they can play together in the same sand box again. Shame on you Motion Picture Academy for taking the low road, saving your own butts and doing this to one of your former Governors and Head of the Music Branch. Maybe a phone call to Bruce, from one of the Academy Governors of the Music Branch would have been nice too? (Angry wife!)”
– Belinda Broughton, evening of Jan. 29
EARLIER (4:13 PST): Well, we said something about this was fishy from the start. The nomination of Christian hymn “Alone Yet Not Alone,” from the faith-based film of the same title, in the Best Original Song category raised more eyebrows than any other decision by the Academy this year — not least because the independent film had scarcely been released, much less reviewed, in the mainstream media.
That wasn’t the reason the nomination smelled bad, however — we’re used to the music branch’s obscure decisions in that category by now, and the song evidently has its admirers. Instead, it was the reports of songwriter Bruce Broughton personally soliciting votes for his work that placed the nomination under scrutiny. Broughton, a former Academy governor and former head of the music branch — nominated for Best Original Score back in 1985 for his memorable work on “Silverado” — directly emailed his fellow branch members to raise awareness of the film and his work in it. While public For Your Consideration ads are par for the course in Oscar season, personal campaigning of this nature is an Academy no-no.
And so it is that the Academy has taken the step of rescinding the nomination, thus disqualifying “Alone Yet Not Alone” from the race. No other song will take its place on the ballot, so we’re reduced to a four-nominee race. No big deal, given that that “Alone Yet Not Alone” didn’t have a snowball’s chance of winning in the first place — but it’s a shame for the unknown sixth-place nominee that would have had a place in the category if the Academy had nipped this error in the bud.
Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has stated, “No matter how well-intentioned the communication, using one”s position as a former governor and current executive committee member to personally promote one”s own Oscar submission creates the appearance of an unfair advantage.”
Broughton, meanwhile, told Variety he is “devastated” by the disqualification, adding, “I indulged in the simplest, lamest, grass-roots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention. I got taken down by competition that had months of promotion and advertising behind them.”
This isn’t the first time a high-profile disqualification has occurred in one of the music categories. In the 1972 race, eventual Best Picture winner “The Godfather” was famously disqualified from the Best Original Score category, after it emerged that a portion of Nino Rota’s iconic theme had actually been lifted from his work on an earlier Italian film. Back then, the disqualified nominee was actually replaced (by John Addison, for “Sleuth”). Perhaps the Academy reasoned that it’d be too embarrassing to invite an extra nominee this late in the game — not that this situation isn’t already mortifying enough.
Will there be a fallout from this, aside from the protests of tens upon tens “Alone Yet Not Alone” fans? Possibly not, though I expect the Academy may establish some more stringent campaign guidelines, and independent contenders, in particular, may be more cautious about how they proceed from now. (Diane Ladd is said to have sent handwritten letters to members of the acting branch in aid of her Best Supporting Actress campaign for “Wild at Heart” in 1990. Would that have passed muster? Or is it only senior Academy figures who need to steer clear of such tactics?)
Anyway, thus ends one of the weirdest incidents in recent Academy history. “Alone Yet Not Alone” is nominated, yet not nominated. Somewhere, Oscarcast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are heaving a huge sigh of relief.